Comfort food has been on constant rotation in my home lately and I recently made a dish that I just can't get enough of: pan fried polenta with braised leeks. Polenta is already a dreamy dish on its own, but once fried, it immediately turns into a new and exciting dish. I realize that there are so many wonderful veggies that I could have used to complement my fried polenta, but for some reason I was drawn to these beautiful leeks. Aren't they gorgeous?
I absolutely love leeks. I find their flavor to be very pleasing but not too overwhelming, making them (in my mind) a perfect match for the polenta. As of late I've been sauteeing my leeks (usually for soups), but for this dish I wanted a different form of preparation—so I thought braising them would be great. I have to thank Amber Wilson for the idea of braising leeks, which I found featured as one of her recipes on food52. After a little experimentation, I came up with a slightly adapted method of Amber’s braising recipe.
The process is pretty straight forward. First you sear the cut side of the leeks, flip them over, add a little broth, and cook them slowly at a low temperature until you they become juicy and flavorful. This cooking method is typically used for various types of meats. But I found that taking this approach ended up being at a wonderful way to get even more flavor out of these leeks.
I could easily eat a bowl of these leeks on their own, but adding them to a dish of fried polenta is totally worth those few extra steps. Especially with a glass of La Crema's Monterey Chardonnay in hand. Make sure to head over to La Crema's blog to get the recipe for these fried polenta triangles so you can make this appetizer at home.
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2 1/2 tbs unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chicken or veggie stock
1 small lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
parsley, for garnish
3-4 tablespoons chopped bacon (about 4 cooked strips)
Equipment: 1, 3.5 Qt sauté pan, serrated knife- if available
Remove one outer layer from each leek, rinse, trim the roots, and cut off any dark green parts (you only want the white and very light green parts). Half each leek lengthwise, rinse again (if needed), then pat dry.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter is hot, add the leeks to the pan, cut side down. Press down on the leeks a bit to ensure a nice, even browning. Let the leeks cook for about 3 minutes, or until browned, then flip over. Immediately reduce heat to low and add 3 tablespoons of stock to the pan. Partially cover the leeks with a lid and let cook until tender which should take about 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the leeks.
Once the leeks are fork tender, remove them from the heat. Squeeze a bit of lemon juice over the leeks and season with salt and pepper to taste. Carefully remove the leeks and cut away any papery layers may be separating. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the leeks into bite sized pieces. Transfer the leeks back to the skillet and keep warm until ready to serve over the fried polenta. Garnish the finished dish with chopped bacon and freshly chopped parsley.